I’ve been writing these posts every year as a kind of personal coda to the previous 365 days. Not always sure why, though. Maybe it provides a bookend that humans need to move on.

I normally call them ‘Saying Goodbye to…’ because that feels a little more conclusive, as if you’re about to begin something brand new and different.

Not this time. If anything, 2011 was proof that something bigger than ever before experienced is coming.

There’s no need to go into great detail about all the insanity that was 2011 for this planet. The transition we’re facing as a species from a 20th century mentality to a decidedly more fluid, 21st century model is in full effect now. We’re still struggling to define the balance between the technology we keep innovating with and the very human need for democracy, freedom and — most importantly — economic stability.

People need jobs, economic security and some sense of hope for the future in order for our civilization to survive. Those matter more than even democratic freedoms, I’d argue. People want a sense of purpose and meaningful work, not to mention having a pay cheque that doesn’t force you to decide between a decent meal or turning the lights on.

2011 was the breaking point for this worldwide crisis that’s taken years to reach its full fruition. And in 2012, it’s going to get even crazier.

The increasing chaos and instability the world faced in 2011 is really part of a larger concern for ourselves and our technology; the crisis of capitalism we face today is based on a central paradox that may not be resolved until we break free from the infinite growth paradigm that seems to be colliding with technological progress.

The fact remains: from the Arab Spring to Russia to the nascent Occupy movement, the infinite growth model is seriously breaking down and people got really, really pissed off in 2011 because of it.

We’ve known something was dangerously wrong with this model since the 2008 crash; however, it’s only been in the last few years that the true extent of the crisis has been made clear to us all.

The crisis (and irony) of 2011’s chaos was as follows: as capitalism as provided a profit incentive for innovation in technology, the role of human beings as workers is on a steep decline.

Yet the paradoxical element of 2011’s revealed truth about the market is that the infinite growth model cannot work as long as there are no buyers. No employees, no money. No money, no buying. Rinse, wash, repeat.

I don’t have any clue or answer on how to confront these problems. If anything, I’m more of the belief now than in any time of my life that the only way for this model to change is for people to reach a point of desperation so vast and dispiriting – a mindset that will ultimately find its true birth among not the Occupy movement, but among the vast numbers of former middle class folks in the United States – that a choice will have to be made.

Will 2012 bring that forward? Probably not. But it’s going to be another step closer, that’s for sure.

On a personal note… 2011 was not as wild and insane as 2010 was for me. This was a calmer year for me, just trying to get through some stuff. In terms of highs:

* My health is starting to take a turn for the better. I have a plan of action ahead that will probably come to a head in 2012, including some big changes that are coming for me.

* My friends and relationships have stabilized after years of drama and chaos. I think I’m finally at a point where I’m at peace in this area of my life. You gain some friends, you lose some friends, but you always at least remain honest about yourself and where you’re going.

* Work went well once again in 2011. Looking forward to the next Olympics in 2012 in London, that’s for sure.

* After a bad first half of the year, University of Toronto turned around splendidly in the fall of 2011. Some great new people and a pretty decent course. I feel a lot better about the part-time Masters again.

And the low…

* University of Toronto for the first half of 2011 was a bad experience. The required course was genuinely painful, combined with a tragedy at the iSchool that kind of ruined things for me and a few others on the student council, not to mention sending shockwaves through the iSchool. It all was pretty messy and the fallout soured me on some aspects and a few people at U of T, but thankfully that’s water under the bridge.

Looking forward, I’m thinking about 2012 as another giant stepping stone in this process of building. I’m feeling good about where I’m headed and where I’m going.

But more importantly, I’m more capable now of handling and dealing with the trials that will come along. It’s good to know that.

Best wishes to everyone for 2012.


This is a post I never wanted to write this soon.

I thought he could beat it. He’s beaten off a million and one enemies, numerous threats from foes great and small and survived everything from brutal chain smoking to simulated water boarding. He could beat this. I convinced myself he could do this.

Yet he couldn’t win this fight.

Learning that Christopher Hitchens, the last great writer standing in an age of instantaneous tweets and quickly forgotten status updates, died tonight at age 62 is hard news to bear.

For me personally, Hitchens was an inspiration. He was a contrarian of the highest order, a masterful provocateur that skewered anyone that preached ideological dogmatism. He was a prolific writer, producing astounding amounts of essays, books and articles on a considerably varied number of subjects. He had a genius ability to turn a phrase into a sharp, quick-witted shot across the bow of both the inane and the powerful. He refused to cave on his principles, no matter how much it cost him personally. He rightly savaged Henry Kissinger, wrote and spoke passionately on atheism and had the guts to call the extremism of Islamic terrorism for what it really is: ugly, twisted and a perversion.

Mostly though, I admired him for his courage.

Being a public intellectual in 2011 is tantamount to dancing alone in the middle of a bar; people generally look at you with a mixture of curiosity and disdain. We’re currently living in an age of action, not words. The West’s long and slow decline is starting to speed up now, and we’re actively scorning the worlds of ideas in favour of those who placate us with cheap and easy slogans.

Hitchens wasn’t like that. Sure, as a man, he was often loutish and a boor. He didn’t win any friends from shifting, in the outbreak of the Iraq War, from being a fierce opponent of the Right to chastising leftists for his belief they didn’t want to face the War on Terror with the conviction he had.

Yet Hitchens took to his beliefs – a determination to spread the gospel that good writing is still valuable and worth fighting for – with a kind of passion I’ve always admired.

Back in 1998 in my final month of residence at Queen’s, I discovered a cache of files online that contained links to a variety of Hitchens’ writings. Over one night, I read over 10 articles, soaking in the man’s words like a sponge. I was immediately hooked.

Years later, I’m still as huge a fan of Hitchens now as I was then. I may not have agreed with everything the man wrote about war, politics and the West since the dark days of 9/11, but there were few writers out there that made as huge a personal impact in me as Hitchens.

Losing him is a great loss for the world.

R.I.P., Hitch.


It looked soft. Effortless.

Almost as if it was gliding, quietly into a web to be trapped. There was nothing blunt about it at first. It was just moving silently from the electronic universe, like a million journeys happen every second.

The first moment was like lucid dreaming.

You know something is happening, but it takes a few seconds to get your bearings to realize where you are. Sometimes, in the corners of that place where you feel things you can’t bear to think rationally about, it becomes a shared experience. Everyone wakes up and shares the same sentiment. It’s a moment that, deep in the annals of history, has never been experienced before. War, peace, plague, love, death and religion – the deepest, primal forces that shape us haven’t come together like this.

It’s never happened like this before.

It was unreal, a misstep out of the monotony and daily rituals. Something so far removed that our reactions could only possibly be hate or horror, regardless of what it was or the outcome.

The fires and smoke. People on the edge of a window desperate for air and plunging to their deaths in a hopeless attempt to be free of the scorching heat and screaming metal. The planet’s video cameras all turning to a series of buildings for a frozen moment in time, relived often online later.

The Internet Age’s first major event.

The second time that shared moment was amplified with the force of a ferocious bite peppered with the stench of blood and fear. We were shaken out of the dream, taken to a place that brings the whole reality of the event into full motion, stop.

The most photographed and videotaped day in all of human history.

Seared into the collective unconsciousness with fire and metal, collapsing to the ground and enveloping humans below with a strange, toxic dust.

The minutes passed. Even if you weren’t there, stuck in the emotional and physical epicentre, you felt everything with an intensity rarely felt or absolved. It was electrified mayhem, a terrible internality. The absorption of history in ways never felt before or since.

They fell soon after.

They glided down to Earth, from a distance, the same way they began to die: Effortlessly. It seemed quiet. Even as the massive screaming, bodies falling from the sky and explosions were nearby, the mediated view we – billions of people – experienced as they collapsed changed us.

The filter was undone. Yeats would say the centre could not hold.

They crashed. They were gone.


Ten years. It feels a lot more recent than that.

Even today, repeating clips of the day on sites like YouTube feels voyeuristic. The day itself wasn’t just about seconds of raw violence, the psychology of people dying for causes real or imagined. It was about us watching. The inability to look away from the moment. A place where your rational self gets buried in favour of your humanity’s inescapable need to see. Know. Feel.

We saw it all happen.

A defining moment in human history. It’s one of those moments that you know, in the deepest recesses of your mind, won’t just be something you, your friends and family or communities will fully understand. Even at the moment of the attack, you know that it will be larger than you, a nation or even a time period, in its meaning.

It is ahistorical. Just feral and instinct.

Of course, many more have died in single events larger than that one. Ten years forward, the destruction of a major American city on the Gulf Coast or a nation itself on the Pacific Rim claimed many more.

Yet this was different. Our psyches – fragile as they are – were broken in some ways.

Some lessons were easy to learn at first: we are no longer safe from other unlucky people’s problems. There are consequences to everything a nation does. The innocent, or even the presumed innocent, are always the first to suffer in a calamity.

Other lessons have taken years to absorb.

The darkest truths of the day revealed themselves over time. A financial breakdown, a war based on lies, any given day where it became commonplace to distrust our leaders.

It is all bearing down in the rawest fact: our vigilance has been lost. We stopped caring about what we are and where we’re going as a people. We were asleep.

That day, we all woke up, violently.

I can’t escape that day. I know none of us can. Some of us for different reasons.

However, my reason isn’t just out of seeing them crash or die, traumatized by a deep psychic wound. It’s that they – the victims – died for a reason we cannot completely comprehend yet.

Ten years on, the meaning of their collapse, a crash into the American military-industrial complex and an official story of heroism among those who said ‘let’s roll.’ It all became a mythology, born out of darkness and a harsh inability to confront the day honestly.

We went back to sleep.

The same processes of carrying on, stuck in an anesthetizing state of trinkets and arrogance, came back with a vengeance. We were told lies and bought them wholesale out of anger, a lust for revenge and hatred.

Anything to put us back to sleep. Anything to keep us from realizing what the day brought us.


I’ve written about that day before. Still, I’ve never really been able to articulate my thoughts with any kind of grace or insight into what it means.

It wasn’t just terror. Neither was it just a turning point in the history of a nation, a great nation that once extolled the virtues of power, now deeply uncertain of its meaning and mired deep in something heartbreaking to watch. Watching an empire fall isn’t always something that happens overnight. It’s sometimes slow, happening in small ways that don’t always make sense at the start. Then it speeds up. It gets faster.

That day was the beginning.

To this moment, I only offer hope. I trust in the belief that it’s meant to turn out a certain way, regardless of how it looks right now.

Ten years on.


Over the past year or so, Queen’s has been rocked by several student deaths.

Anyone who wants to know about these individual cases can look them up online. I’m not going to rehash them or go into detail about them.

Yet one thing I do want to discuss here is the collective response on people’s part towards these deaths. As an alumnus, I know I can speak with pretty reasonable authority that none of these proposed solutions – a report in the Star about a ‘culture of drinking’ or Principal Woolf writing an article expressing his very real concern – have any bearing on the reality of the situation at Queen’s (or anywhere else for that matter).

They’re the rhetorical equivalent of handwringing, an inability to grasp the central conceit of a world that doesn’t make sense for a lot of people anymore.

Here’s the stark reality, Queen’s: our undergraduates are completely and totally lost.

They’re facing the zero-sum game of dwindling job opportunities, fighting tooth and nail for every conceivable advantage in a world that demands you be perfect. It’s a dangerous mix of both personal and existential anxiety these kids are facing; whether people want to admit it or not, the perception of Failure Is No Longer An Option rings ever louder at a place like Queen’s.

And Queen’s hasn’t done anything to stop this.

Let’s talk about some of the basic facts we know about a university like Queen’s – hardly alone in this problem of student deaths.

Anyone that’s ever gone to a university like Queen’s knows two things: it’s a school with a lot of intelligent people in it and it’s also a brutally competitive place. From the moment you arrive, any student worth their salt learns a very valuable lesson very quickly: as much as you may fit in with a certain crowd of people (or not), you’re ultimately laying down the groundwork for an academic future that’s going to feature a lot of folks vying for similar goals. In other words, welcome to the quiet battlefield of academia. Those folks that kicked ass academically in the grade-inflated world that is modern high school? Well guess what kids, you’re about to meet a legion of them.

That’s some intimidating stuff. And anyone who doesn’t admit to it is lying.

This competitive landscape isn’t just some kind of abstract idea, either. It’s encouraged in direct and indirect ways. This includes everything from the ill-gotten comparisons of your first painfully mediocre Philosophy essay – what do you mean I got a B-? The fuck? – to borrowing lab notes to, as numerous anecdotes suggest, Life Science students sabotaging other students’ lab reports. This happened more than once during my time at Queen’s.

The upshot of the whole thing is the unspoken belief you’re not just competing against yourself, but other people. This leads to pressure, anxiety, stress and anything else that can be treated with drugs that end in the suffix ‘pam.’

Of course, you’d also be lying to yourself to suggest that students today are comparably weak or feeble-minded to the students of my day. People are people, no matter what time and place they live in. Queen’s students are a sharp bunch, no matter what year or degree they’re in.

The difference is how people cope with the stresses they’re facing and what kinds of options are available to them to feel better.

It all comes full circle into what’s gone on at Queen’s over the past several years. The narrative is tying together now, reaching larger spaces in both geography and the damaged collective psyche of Queen’s. The outrage over a street party that went too far, the intergenerational warfare that’s becoming part and parcel of an eviscerated alumni experience, the binge drinking culture that’s gone one step closer to outright nihilism – it’s starting to show us what we’ve denied for a long time.

The proverbial canary in the cultural coalmine – our youth – are facing a future that’s being shaped by forces that no longer give a damn about them. It’s a prospect that speaks to a deep crisis in our universities, places that seem just as lost as our undergraduates in what their purpose in a hostile world is.

It’s a reality Queen’s must wake up to. As much as gestures like Queen’s Loves U – however seemingly disingenuous aspects of it may be in an ultra-competitive environment like Queen’s – mean well, Queen’s must change course.

Our world is not a happy place right now. Queen’s, dealing with some of the worst financial pressures it has ever faced, is being forced into a corner. Our governments have given up on long-term goals, preferring to spend electoral terms holding on for dear life.

It’s enough to make some of our youth, raised in the backdrop of terrorism, economic crisis and increasing financial pressures, crack under the pressure. These kids are waking up to the daunting belief that no matter what they do, no matter how hard they work, it may not make a difference. After years of following the rules, playing by the expectations our vaunted captains of industry and politicians hand down, they’re starting to see how so much of it is certifiable, Grade-AAA bullshit. It really is every man for themselves.

These kids – born into wealth but coming of age in rags – were raised in a time when perfect was the only option, having no release with a culture of helicopter parenting and a surveillance state run amok. They’ve been trained not to learn, but to find ways to beat the system. And the system’s utter failure to provide any of us with a real future is destroying our youth.

I’m also willing to admit this isn’t just Queen’s fault. These kids have been raised to believe they’re perfect, unable to cope with the prospect of real failure. Once it happens, it’s like a personal cataclysm. The self-esteem movement that’s become a staple of parenting has done irreparable harm to our youth, mistaking the belief that ‘everyone’s special’ is the same as success in the real world.

Yet this is where Queen’s must realize it has collectively failed as an institution.

For decades, Queen’s has taken the road well-traveled when it comes to dominant ideologies of the day. It didn’t earn the nickname ‘a hotbed of social rest’ as a compliment to the place’s sense of activism or what not.

Yet it is time for Queen’s to change course.

As an alumnus, I can see with full clarity in my personal rear view what a place like Queen’s can do to people: as time goes on, you absorb the direct and indirect lessons of living there.

Queen’s must stop riding the coattails of a failed belief in the so-called freedom of neo-liberalism. It must stand up with conviction, passion and grace that you can have a world that gives its students opportunity without selling out to the highest bidder. It must instill in its students that no matter what happens in our tense, aggressive world, Queen’s will always stand up for its students. It will not stand pat and let fear dominate the agenda. It will publicly admit the school’s administration is stretched too thin, forcing it to become reactive than proactive.

Yet most of all: it will make it crystal clear that the people of Queen’s are what makes it great. It will not allow its students to battle each other in a vicious cycle of competition anymore. It will stand as a beacon of light in an intellectual sea of darkness that North America is quickly becoming.

I love Queen’s. I’ve had my issues with the place over the years. I’m saying these things because, as an alumnus, I’m not going to stand around and assume the status quo is okay anymore. It’s not. Queen’s can’t either.

Further, as an alumnus, I won’t donate to Queen’s until the university stops looking at the symptoms of this spiritual crisis and addressing the real issue: our youth feel lost. They need more than just hugs and token gestures. We need to talk about this.

They need you, Queen’s.


You can’t start a new post on ‘being a former Liberal’ without a few caveats.

I’ve tried rationalizing my perspective on this issue a million different ways: the party’s internal wars had finally stamped out any voices of renewal, nobody knew what being Liberal really meant anymore, it’s all really just ancient history now.

I spent the last few elections simply angry at the Liberals for a lot of reasons; on a strictly personal level, I was mad that I felt as if I had wasted years of my time on them at university for a result that ended up filling me with a lot of bad memories and personal regrets.

Of course, many elements of the party did alienate me. I felt jilted. I can’t let them off the hook personally for that. I also know it was me — inexperienced, self-righteous and more than a little naive — that didn’t ‘get’ how modern political parties really work. I wasn’t up to snuff back then. I drank the Kool-Aid right from the beginning without knowing what I was drinking, as it were, and then got angry at the people who served it up to me instead of taking responsibility for myself.

The upside — the only true, long-term one — was meeting some truly great people that I’m still friends with.

Still, during those elections of 2006 and 2008, I didn’t vote Liberal. I deliberately voted against them, knowing that I’m just one guy and one vote doesn’t matter nearly as much in an antiquated, first-past-the-post political reality.

The thing is, I’m not angry at them anymore. But with the party now getting hammered in the polls on a national level and Michael Ignatieff virtually assured to be ousted as party leader, I’m starting to question a lot about what the outcome and long-term implications of a badly beaten Liberal Party would be.

My central question is this: in the pursuit of some mythical perfect Liberal Party that will never exist, have people like me – ex-Liberals – sacrificed the greater good in favour of burning the whole Liberal house down?

Logically, I know the Liberal Party has to hit rock bottom to change for the better. The brand is in serious trouble, regardless if you believe the poll numbers. A sea change in Canadian politics is happening because the Liberal Party, for whatever reasons, didn’t resonate with Canadians this time en masse.

And make no mistake: as much as a person can rant and rave at people for believing such-and-such about Stephen Harper being ‘good for Canada’ or why Jack Layton’s promises are unrealistic or whatever, there’s no value judgment when it comes to our collective cultural attitudes about Canadian politics this time. Culture is never wrong. The people are reflecting what they want and the seismic shift is happening with or without the Liberals’ consent.

But I digress. Now that we’re witnessing something dramatic in the Liberal Party’s fortunes, the bigger point remains clearer than ever to me: a personal act of insurrection against the Liberals — whether it’s not voting for them or whatever it may be — is easy to do when the impact of that decision can’t be seen immediately.

I fear that, for people like me, the great dust off we’ve given to the Liberals is providing the Conservatives an opportunity to remake this country in ways that are questionable and possibly destructive. I have no idea what the implications of a Conservative majority are, if it indeed happens. I’m not sure I want to contemplate that reality, either. Canada has become a meaner, harder place over the past several years and I’m not sure I want that kind of Canada.

I also don’t know if the NDP is capable of leading a government; it’s very easy to be critical of a government, much harder to actually be in power. Go ask Bob Rae about how that worked out.

Yet beyond all this, I’m starting to have doubts about the morality and ethics of this democratic insurrection.

The Liberal Party is not perfect. The Liberal Party has a lot of toxic elements in it. Yet is the party worth saving?

Yes. But not because they’re Liberals. It’s because the long-term sacrifice may be too high.


I usually write these blog posts as a kind of note to myself. I don’t really write them for other people. How does one sum up a year in your life in a single blog post, anyway?

Last year I wrote a two-part post on my experience in the Naughties. It was immensely cathartic and one of those things a person has to do to move forward sometimes. Since then, I’ve rarely blogged at all. Last year, I just couldn’t find the time to do it or the passion creatively for it. I don’t know if that’s going to change, but I still plan on keeping this blog. I like having it around as a digital record of my life.

So, 2010? How’d we do?

It was definitely an intense year. A lot happened personally. First, the good:

* My job was busy as can be and featured numerous major milestones. The Vancouver Games, the World Cup, everything: The last year has been a great one professionally.

* I started my part-time degree at U of T — it’s been fantastic to get that intellectual stimulation back, met some great new people and am part of an environment that will lead to amazing career development down the road. A Queen’s, University of King’s College and University of Toronto academic pedigree? Hell yes.

* I’ve been working out like mad now. I’m enjoying it a lot, too. I never thought it would be as easy as it is to get up and do it. I guess it’s probably because I’m happy with myself in a lot of different ways now.

Now… the bad…

* I miss you Dave. Losing you was the biggest shock of 2010 for me. I think about you often and hope, wherever you are, you’re okay.

* I lost a few people along the way, not just with them passing away.

* I had my appendix taken out in July. It was pretty scary for a few days, but you get through it.

Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into a self-indulgence fest. As I said last year, turn the page and move forward. In any event, 2010 was a pretty crazy year. It was a mostly good one, too. Hopefully this decade will be a great one.

Best wishes for 2011, folks.


Okay, so this space seems to be gathering dust. I just don’t post anymore. I’m still keeping the blog, but my posts are now reduced to once every month or three.

I’m kind of bored with blogging. Have been for some time now. There’s a few reasons why: Twitter is far, far better at conveying short pieces of information that blogs just can’t do. I’m starting to realize, in a time when you can’t keep on top of everything that’s coming at you digitally for too long, that I can only do the short bursts now. I just have too much else to review.

I’ve tried to re-invent this blog a few times now. It’s never lasted. Mostly because it felt like a creative obligation to do so, as if I have to be a slave to it in order to make it worthwhile. Although there is something to be said about, you know, having actual traffic on a site. Relevancy only through visibility, as it were.

I had class today. Tutorial in a few hours. I’m in my student council office. I worked all holiday weekend. I went for massive power walks too. I have a stack of reading material at home that hasn’t been cracked. I have class readings.

It’s all so crazy busy now. I’m trying to keep it together. I’m mostly doing this. Perhaps I need this blog again for creative reasons or just to vent. I’m still not sure which, even after six years of blogging.